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E-Pluribus | July 21, 2022
Florida school policy on LGBTQ kids goes viral but the truth is complicated, NYT columnist admits he was wrong about Trump voters, and maybe we shouldn't prosecute kids for silly text messages.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Jesse Singal: An Attempt To Accurately Explain The Viral Controversy Over The Leon County, Florida School System’s Policy On Trans Kids
As Jesse Singal himself admits at his Substack, this isn’t an “easy-to-summarize” story, but essentially a Twitter outrage emerged over a supposed school board policy in Leon County, Florida that would require notifying parents if an LGBTQ child attends an overnight trip or is in a P.E. class. Except that’s not exactly what was happening in Leon County.
But despite the sudden burst of interest in Leon County Schools’ LGBT policies, very few people seemed to have read the Democrat article itself, or the primary document linked therein. If they had, they would have immediately noticed some red flags calling this scary narrative into question. If they’d dug deeper — just a little deeper, in fact — they would have discovered that the truth is pretty far from the Twitter rumors, and significantly less menacing.
In fact, what happened was that an advisory group dominated by political liberals who take progressive positions on trans rights came together to revise a policy for LGBT inclusivity in Leon County. Then, the Leon County School Board, which is similarly liberal in its orientation and which had appointed the group in question, passed that policy. It was viewed as a victory by many of those who saw themselves as defending trans kids. And while the policy does use the language “open about their gender identity,” this is misleading and inaccurate for reasons I’ll explain.
The kernel of truth here is that, because of the (vague) language of H.B. 1557, the school board believed it had to notify parents that their kids might be changing or bunking on an overnight trip alongside kids of the other sex and give them a chance to opt their kids out of such situations. But the policy only applies to very specific circumstances in which it would be quite unlikely that an individual kid would be outed. Moroever [sic], the school board amended the policy, at the last minute, to make this even less of a risk, especially on overnight trips, where the present policy doesn’t involve any notifications about the presence of individual trans kids. These final changes weren’t reflected in the version of the document that the Tallahassee Democrat linked to, which appears to be the one uploaded to the school board website before the meeting took place.
This story is complicated. I’ll try to explain it with as much detail as possible. But I’m hoping that even those uninterested in the policy debate will recognize the pernicious role Twitter played here.
Read the full piece here.
Bret Stephens: I Was Wrong About Trump Voters
Rarely do we see major talking heads admitting when they’ve had a bad take on a major issue, but this week, the New York Times opinion pages published an “I Was Wrong About” series, featuring pieces from Times columnists discussing past claims they now admit were incorrect. Bret Stephens admits he was “wrong” about the way he characterized Trump voters.
“If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”
This opening salvo, from August 2015, was the first in what would become dozens of columns denouncing Trump as a unique threat to American life, democratic ideals and the world itself. I regret almost nothing of what I said about the man and his close minions. But the broad swipe at his voters caricatured them and blinkered me.
It also probably did more to help than hinder Trump’s candidacy. Telling voters they are moral ignoramuses is a bad way of getting them to change their minds.
What were they seeing that I wasn’t?
That ought to have been the first question to ask myself. When I looked at Trump, I saw a bigoted blowhard making one ignorant argument after another. What Trump’s supporters saw was a candidate whose entire being was a proudly raised middle finger at a self-satisfied elite that had produced a failing status quo.
Read it all.
Ken Paulson: A 'trillion' reasons not to prosecute this 10-year-old
In Cape Coral, Florida, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office took a violent criminal off the streets — a 10 year old boy named Daniel Marquez. What was the boy’s crime? He texted his friend some silly — some might say “childish” — messages about getting a trillion dollars and buying a gun. At the News-Press, fromer USA Today Editor-in-Chief Ken Paulson explains the free speech implications of Lee County’s clear overreaction:
What is not protected [by the First Amendment] is what courts call a “true threat,” defined by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as a threat that “on its face and in the circumstances in which it is made is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to the person threatened, as to convey a gravity of purpose and imminent prospect of execution.”
The 10-year-old’s texts were none of those things. They were silly, scattered, and totally devoid of “gravity of purpose.” The First Amendment bars prosecution unless a specific threat is made with a calculated intention of terrifying another. There was no anonymous call to the school. There was no threat to the student body. There was no public post. There was no scrawled manifesto. It was one boy texting another, and the latter’s father going to the police.
The boy’s first text claimed he scammed a friend out of a trillion dollars. The sheriff would never consider using that text to make an arrest for fraud. The child said he used the trillion dollars to buy an automatic rifle. The sheriff wouldn’t dare to use that as evidence of the underage purchase of a gun. So what’s left? The young man said he was looking forward to a special school event, also eagerly anticipated by his classmates. And for that, he’s charged with a crime.
[ . . . ]
True threats of all sorts – against schools, health officials, librarians, police officers and many more – need to be properly investigated and prosecuted. But that means focusing resources on pursuing those who strive to intimidate, not children who claim to have come into a trillion dollars.
Read the full piece.
Reactions to the cancellation of Dave Chappelle’s show at The First Avenue venue in Minneapolis:
Tom Gara and Glenn Greenwald critique the Times “I Was Wrong About” series: